14. September - 15. January 2017 Paris


I Ben, I sign, 1974, Acrylic on canvas, Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Männedorf © Private Collection, Courtesy Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Männedorf-Zürich, Switzerland
Abstract Form, 1958 © The artist’s collection
Suspended object and mystery box sculpture, 1958 - 1962, Collage © The artist’s collection
Being, 1975, Acrylic on canvas, Lella et Pierre Le Pillouër Collection, Vallauris © The artist’s collection
I don’t throw anything away, 1975 - 1995, A collection of various objects stuck to a pram © The artist’s collection

Retrospective combines historical and contemporary works of Ben Vautier

Ben takes possession of the newly reopened Musée Maillol for the first large-scale exhibition devoted to the artist in Paris. Bringing together over 200 artworks principally from the artist’s own personal collection, as well as private collections, this retrospective, which features several previously unseen installations, provides the public with an insight into the multiple and complex facets of this iconoclastic, provocative and prolific artist, an advocate of the non-conformist and the alternative for over 50 years.

Following on from the ambitious retrospective devoted to Ben at the Musée Tinguely in Basel in 2015, the curatorship of the historical part of the exhibition at the Musée Maillol was entrusted to Andres Pardey, vice-director of the Musée Tinguely. For the contemporary section, carte blanche was given to Ben, who was invited to display his most recent creations within the spaces of the museum, some of which can be seen by the public for the first time.

In the late 1950s, Benjamin Vautier more widely known as Ben, declared: ‘I sign everything’. This statement, corroborated by his images and actions, illustrates his belief that the world and indeed art, is a whole, and that everything constitutes art. Each phrase, however brief, reveals a meditation on important issues such as truth in art, the role of the artist in society and the relationship between art and life itself. His ‘écritures’ or written texts reflect his own personal questions and bear testimony to a critical spirit that is quick to question everyone and everything, including himself. Inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades, Ben has systematically perpetuated the notion that a work of art is recognizable not by its material content, but by its signature alone.

Ben is unique for his combination of art, philosophy and the everyday. He was one of the first artists in Europe to take art into the streets. Beginning in 1959, with his famous ‘street actions’, which are as much everyday activities (waiting at a bus stop), as they are ‘eccentric’ or ‘whimsical’ (swimming fully-clothed from one end of Nice harbour to the other), he became one of the key actors in the Fluxus movement in Europe.

The  extensive exhibition presents  the  genesis  of  Ben’s  career  with  a  selection  of some of his key works from 1958 to 1978. These works illustrate Ben’s search for an abstract formal language he could call his own and culminates in an ensemble of old and early ‘écritures’ or written texts. Ben then moved away from a purely formal experimentation, becoming more interested in content and meaning, through artworks that became increasingly conceptual.

All of the scope of his artistic repertoire is presented in this part of the exhibition: attempts at lyrical abstraction, numerous ‘street actions’ from the 1960s onwards, highlights of the Fluxus movement in Nice, and appropriations, up until Ben’s musings as an art theorist and philosopher. The second part of the exhibition opens the doors to the world of the artist with the presentation of some of his more contemporary installations. Ben provides the visitor with a kaleidoscopic overview of some of his most recent creations, and has even created new installations specifically for the Musée Maillol.


Find out more about the Fluxus movement here:






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